Showing posts with label Altes Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Altes Museum. Show all posts

December 19, 2020

Unsolved string of incidents at multiple museums, vandalising more than 100 objects, in Germany

Last October the museum world was shocked by mysterious vandalism of sixty objects in four hours at three prominent German museums on Berlin's Museumsinsel (Museum Island), the Pergamon Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, and the Neues Museum.  On October 3rd of this year, the artefacts were splashed with an oily liquid.  Nothing more about the substance of the liquid has been shared with the media and it is unknown at what time the widespread vandalisation occurred. 

News of the attacks was not made public for more than two weeks after the damage was identified and a police report on the incidents was not published until October 21st, the results of which were brief and gave few little details:

“Unknown perpetrators attacked numerous works of art and artifacts in several museums on Berlin's Museum Island from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on October 3. The strangers applied a liquid to the objects and thus caused damage that cannot yet be quantified. The responsible commissioner for art offences in the Berlin State Criminal Police Office has taken over the investigation. In order not to jeopardize the investigations and research, the investigators decided, in coordination with the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, not to comment publicly on the event for reasons of tactical investigations and only now to address the public with a call to witnesses.” 

The vandalism occurred on German Unity Day, a public holiday which commemorates German reunification in 1990 when the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic were unified. It is, however, unclear whether the motivation behind the attack was political, as the incidents are believed to have occurred on the first day that the Pergamon and other museums reopened following a shutdown related to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions earlier this year. 

Image Credit: Markus Schreiber-AP.  Friederike Seyfried, director of Antique Egyptian Department of the Neues Museum in Berlin, shows media a stain from the liquid on the Sarcophagus of the prophet Ahmose on Wednesday.

The criminal director at the State Criminal Police Office, Carsten Pfohl, has commented that they would not “engage in speculation” about motives behind these incidents as they have not been able to identify any of the perpetrators on the security footage.  No link has been found between the damaged artefacts at the three museums, and a full accounting of which objects were affected has not been made public, although it is believed to include an Egyptian sarcophagi, some stone sculptures, and painting frames.  

Image Credit: Markus Schreiber-AP News

The lack of concrete information regarding the motivations of the perpetrator(s) has led some in the German media to speculate about why the museums' artworks were targeted.  While the true motives of the culprit(s) remain to be determined, one theory proffered places blame for the damage on having been inspired by conspiracy theorist Attila Klaus Peter Hildmann.

Hildmann, a best-selling cookbook author, turned QAnon follower, has been wildly outspoken regarding Covid-19 who sees the coronavirus in connection with the planned introduction of a so-called “ New World Order. ”  He has also been vocal in his criticism of the Pergamon museum, launching protests and accusations denouncing it as “the throne of Satan.”  Hildmann has also made wild claims about night-time practices surrounding the use of the museum's reconstructed Pergamon altar, a Hellenistic Period (c. 200-150 BCE) altar to the Greek gods Zeus and Athena which was created in Pergamon, Turkey.

Calling the museum a "centre of global satanists and Corona criminals" he has implied that the alter (currently closed for restorations, has been used for human sacrifice.   In one of his accusations he referenced Revelations 2:12-13 which reads:

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:  These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.  I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.” 

While Hildmann has made no comment regarding his involvement in the museums' vandalism, he has tweeted links to articles which reference his potential involvement.  Hildmann has also made comments in the past encouraging his supporters to take action against the museum, encouraging them to storm the museum in August.  The deputy director of the museum, Christina Haak, commented that there had been many acts of vandalism over the summer, mostly limited to the exterior of the museum and involving either graffiti or torn posters.  

On October 21st the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation held a press conference and questions were asked regarding the potential involvement of Hildmann or his supporters.  Pfohl commented that the police suspect a single perpetrator but could not rule out the involvement of multiple people at this time.  He also commented that the participation of Hildmann supporters could neither be excluded, nor confirmed, at the moment.  

Image Credit: Markus Mayer, Flickr

As a result of the vandalism, an offer of aid in the restoration of the objects has come in from the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation which has said that it will provide €100,000 to assist the museums. A spokesperson for the Berlin State Museums, who spoke with Artnet News  said that they were “very pleased about the fast and unbureaucratic support.”  The costs of the damage have not been assessed, but the funds will undoubtedly be needed. 

In November the German daily newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschau, based in Frankfurt am Main reported additional attacks at the Wewelsburg district museum in North Rhine-Westphalia and an attack in the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, as well as an earlier Mid July attack at the Wewelsburg district museum over the summer.  In the latter incident and similar to the attack in Berlin, employees discovered 50 objects which had also been damaged by an oily substance.  According to that newspaper, the liquid used in Potsdam and Berlin tested as being vegetable-based. 


By:  Lynnette Turnblom


Bibliography

Brown, Kate. 2020. “An Art Foundation Has Pledged €100,000 in Aid to a Group of German Museums Attacked by Vandals.” Artnet News. October 22, 2020. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/berlin-museum-vandalism-security-1917316.

Eddy, Melissa. 2020. “Vandals Deface Dozens of Artworks in Berlin Museums.” The New York Times, October 21, 2020, sec. Arts. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/arts/design/berlin-museums-vandalism.html.

Koldehoff, Stefan, and Tobias Timm. 2020. “ZEIT ONLINE | Lesen Sie Zeit.de Mit Werbung Oder Im PUR-Abo. Sie Haben Die Wahl.” Www.Zeit.De. October 20, 2020. https://www.zeit.de/kultur/2020-10/kunst-vandalismus-berlin-museumsinsel-recherche.

Kurianowicz, Tomasz. 2020. “Attila Hildmann: Pergamonmuseum Beherbergt „Thron Satans“.” Berliner Zeitung. October 21, 2020. https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/kultur-vergnuegen/attila-hildmann-pergamonmuseum-beherbergt-thron-des-satans-zerstoerung-museumsinsel-berlin-li.112933.

Morris, Loveday, and Luisa Beck. 2020. “Dozens of Artifacts Vandalized in Three Berlin Museums.” Washington Post, October 21, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/berlin-museum-vandalism-germany/2020/10/21/2cb1e194-1383-11eb-a258-614acf2b906d_story.html.

Nicholson, Esme. 2020. “Dozens Of Artifacts Apparently Vandalized At Berlin’s Museums.” NPR.Org. October 21, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/21/926200421/nearly-70-artifacts-apparently-vandalized-at-berlins-museums?t=1603358606430.

Oltermann, Philip. 2020. “Berlin: Vandalism of Museum Artefacts ‘Linked to Conspiracy Theorists.’” The Guardian, October 20, 2020, sec. World news. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/21/berlin-vandalism-of-museum-artefacts-linked-to-conspiracy-theorists.

“Weiteres Museum von Attacken betroffen” The Frankfurter Rundschau, November 20, 2020. https://www.fr.de/ratgeber/medien/weiteres-museum-von-attacken-betroffen-zr-90107022.html

“Zahlreiche Kunstwerke Mit Flüssigkeit Angegriffen – Zeugen Gesucht.” 2020. Www.Berlin.De. October 21, 2020. https://www.berlin.de/polizei/polizeimeldungen/pressemitteilung.1006830.php.


February 29, 2020

Flash Back to Restitutions: Remembering the Apulian dinos, 340-320 B.C.E. attributed to the Darius painter


A long time ago, in a galaxy seemingly far far away, a red-figure 340-320 B.C.E. Apulian dinos, attributed to the Darius Painter, once lived in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.   The antiquity was purchased by the Met via the Classical Purchase Fund, the Rogers Fund and the Helen H Mertens and Norbert Schimmel gifts in November 1984. 

This red-figure vase, sometimes called a lebed, was decorated with scenes from a comedy, perhaps by Epicarmos, involving one of the numerous adventures of Herakles in which he encountered Busiris, a king who had been advised to sacrifice all strangers to Zeus in order to avoid drought.


In the primary image on the vase and to the right of the altar and column stands Busiris, dressed in traditional oriental-style clothing. He is the one holding a scepter and who is brandishing a menacing knife. Heracles, pictured on the opposite side of the altar, casually draped in a lion's cape, is his intended victim.

Others in the scene include two Egyptians, busy assisting in the pending mayhem.  One carries a butcher's block with more knives while another is seen adding water to a kettle, placed to boil on the fire. There are also servants depicted carrying a tray of cakes, an amphora, and a wine jug. What better way to end a murder than with a quick snack washed down with wine.  

Yet, in the end, Herakles ultimately prevailed over Busiris, much in the same way the Italian government did in February 2006 they reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to return this and five other plundered antiquities identified in the museums collections.

Polaroids photographs of the dinos (inv. 1984.11.7 when at the Met) were seized by law enforcement during a raid at the Geneva Freeport.  These identified the antiquity in three different conditions, first in guilty fragments, then partially restored with the glued joints still visible, and lastly in a photo after it had been purchased and put on display at the Metropolitan Museum.

As Dr. David Gill pointed out, five objects, each attributed to the Darius painter were acquired by different museum institutions between 1984 and 1991, a period when southern Italy was subject to extreme plundering.  Some of those items, are still in museum collections outside of Italy.

In 2001 Ricardo Elia, who surveyed Apulian pottery, estimated that some 31 per cent of the total corpus of Apulian pots totalling more than 4200 vases, all surfaced on the ancient art market between 1980 and 1992 virtually all of which has little or no substantiated history.  A group of 21 of these are (still) on display at the Altes Museum (German for Old Museum) on Museum Island in Berlin, Germany, the major part of which come from a single burial are attributed to the workshop of the Darius painter, and were acquired in 1988.  Documented in the museum as coming from an ancient Swiss collection, photos from the seized Giacomo Medici archive show the fragments from these same vases, still dirty with earth, waiting to be put back together again.

Apulian Vases at the Altes Museum, Berlin
If you want to see this ancient object in its natural habitat and see the video in this post as it works its magic in person, please stop by the fabulous Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto - MArTA and take a look.

If you would like to read more about this grouping of stolen antiquities: please consult the following:

"Homecomings: reflections on returning antiquities", David W.J. Gill

"Analysis of the looting, selling, and collecting of Apulian red-figure vases: a quantitative approach" Trade in illicit antiquities: the destruction of the world’s archaeological heritage, by Elia, R J 2001

The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities-- From Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museum, by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini

La diplomazia culturale italiana per il ritorno dei beni in esilio. Storia, attualità e future prospettive, by Stefano Alessandrini

Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World, edited by Noah Charney